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Portland Nursery

Architectural Plants

Design a simple plant palette with bold, architectural plants. For shade or sun,
these plants complement any modern garden style.

While many gardeners in the Pacific Northwest seek a complexity and style closer to that found in nature, there are other garden styles whose character is much simpler. Modern garden design, in particular, favors a limited plant palette and bold, architectural plants. A modern garden design using architectural plants (strong in shape and form) works well with mid-century homes and simple hardscaping materials
(e.g., concrete or metal).

shade

Featured Shade Plants

architecuralshade

Disporum c. ‘Night Heron’
Disporum cantoniese ‘Night Heron’ emerges in spring with dark mahogany stems that resemble bamboo. It tall slender form and shiny green summer leaves add a lot of structure.

Height: 4-5 feet.

Athyrium niponicum
Japanese painted fern (available in a number of varieties) adds good color and texture.

Height: 1.5-2 feet.

Ophiopogon p. ‘Nigrescens’
Black mondo grass is clean and modern in appearance and ties the combination together with its neutral color.

Height: 1 foot.

Featured Sun Plants

architecuralsun

Yucca f. ‘Golden Sword’
The Yucca f. ‘Golden Sword’ has wonderful structure and color making a great focal point in the garden, year-round.

Height: 2 feet.

Eryngium ‘Big Blue’
The Eryngium ‘Big Blue’ also has an unusual architectural structure and an additional shocking blue color.

Height: 2-3 feet.

Sedum ‘Angelina,’
Sedum ‘Angelina,’ an evergreen groundcover, ties the combination together with a bold chartreuse/gold color that burnishes towards orange in winter.

sun

Special Considerations:

During the wintertime the Disporum c. ‘Green Giant’ and Athyrium niponicum are dormant. They should be protected with mulch or compost once they go dormant in late fall. When the disporum breaks dormancy in spring it has a wild beanstalk-like growth, making it especially cool to watch.

In the sun combination, Eryngium ’Big Blue’ dies back in the winter but the flower stalks of the dormant plant can be left alone for quite awhile because it looks nice dried in the garden.

Care & Maintenance:

Provide well-drained soil and all-purpose fertilizer during planting time and annually, thereafter.

Plant Spacing/Repetition

Plants look most natural planted together in threes. This is a longstanding landscape design principle. Hence, when planting, group your three plants together. Remember to account for their ultimate size and place the largest plant in the center.

Disporum’s height is 4-5 feet, while Athyrium’s is 1.5-2 feet and Ophiopogon’s is 1 foot. Yucca f. ‘Golden Sword’ is 2 feet tall, while the flower stalk can be upwards of 6 feet. Eryngium ‘Big Blue’ can reach 3 feet tall while Sedum ‘Angelina’ is a groundcover.

If there is more room in the garden, the combination of three plants can be planted multiple times in a row or evenly spaced throughout a larger area.